Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Power of the Open House

When done right, an open house or even a series of open houses can really help in publicizing an event or concept, without having to rely on the media and by targeting people directly. To exemplify this, I give you a case study on Lund Family Center:

Lund Family Center is an organization that has been in the community for 118 years and its services have evolved to meet emerging community needs over that time.
Today, Lund Family Center offers a comprehensive treatment program for pregnant or parenting young women with substance abuse and/or mental health issues and their children; Vermont's oldest and largest private non-profit adoption agency; and a comprehensive family resource as a Parent/Child Center.

Many people in the greater Burlington area only think of Lund as the maternity home they were familiar with when growing up and many more are unaware of the comprehensive services the organization offers. The most common response Lund gets when someone visits is, "wow, we had no idea that you do so much and that you are having that big of an impact!".

Taking that into consideration, when Lund celebrated their momentous occasion of moving back into their expanded and completely transformed residential building at 76 Glen Road in Burlington last fall, they needed to look long and hard at how to share that knowledge with a community that gets news and information from a variety of sources, many of whom will never have the opportunity to actually step foot in Lund Family Center. While their roots at this site go back to 1890, Lund bid farewell to the 1960s maternity home building design and officially opened a new chapter by designing a space that meets the treatment needs of the families they are serving today and the families they plan to serve in the future. The new building enhances their ability to provide services to children and families and expands the capacity to annually help create new beginnings for an additional 25 Vermont children and their families, serving more than 80 children and their families each year.

So, this fall, Lund implemented a series of open houses - for board members, supporters, neighbors, community members, businesses, and all other folks they have in their wide network of contacts. I learned about it as I helped provide some PR services for Lund a few years back when I worked at an agency to help publicize the contribution they received from Senator Jefford's to be able to reach their capital campaign to begin the renovations. I went to one of these open houses last week and while I was amazed at the beautiful job they did with the renovations, I was equally impressed with how well the mothers and expectant mothers did with organizing the tour and lunch and fall of the people who attended to learn more about Lund Family Center.

In my professional opinion, I'd say open houses are back in! Plan far in advance, be creative about what is at your open house, and network with your networks!

And in addition - Congratulations Lund - you are great addition to the greater Burlington community!

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